The CEELI Institute was proud to have been selected as a Panel Organizer for the most recent session of the United Nations Global Judiciary Integrity Network, held in Doha, Qatar, in February 2020. The Global Judicial Integrity Network was created by the UN in 2018 to assist judiciaries across the globe in strengthening judicial integrity and preventing corruption in the justice sector, in line with article 11 of the United Nations Convention against Corruption. The recent global program in Doha brought together over 600 judges and civil society organizations from over 100 countries.

In Doha, the CEELI Institute organized and CEELI Executive Director Christopher Lehmann moderated the panel on “Judicial Independence: New Challenges and Judicial Governance Innovations.”  The program was delivered in partnership with the Justice Studies Center of the Americas, based in Santiago, Chile. The session addressed the ways in which governments around the globe are limiting the independence of judiciaries, by using a combination of very public threats, as well as legislative and administrative actions and “reforms” designed to restrict the function of individual judges. The session also examined actions that high courts and judicial councils may take to counter such challenges and to ensure the independent and transparent functioning of the courts.

The panel drew together senior jurists who have taken high profile roles in the fight for judicial independence: Judge Ivana Hrdlickova, President of the Lebanon Tribunal, in the Hague; Judge Lozan Panov, President of the Bulgarian Supreme Court of Cassation; Justice Madan Lokur (ret.) of the Supreme Court of India; and Judge Luz del Carmen Ibáñez Carranza, of the International Criminal Court.

The panel highlighted the ongoing needs for external support for the judiciary at both the national and international level, as well as some of the concrete steps that can be taken to bolster judicial independence. Among those steps, panelists highlighted the need for judiciaries to take proactive steps to build and increase the level of public trust in their work and role. This can be done through acts of transparency, through public outreach about the work of the judiciary, by drafting clear and easily understood decisions, and even by effective use of social media and other forms of communication with the public about the work and role of judges. Judicial allies, including civil society, must also take an active role in defending the notion of an independent judiciary

Panelists also emphasized the need to bring to bear the relevant international instruments and institutions that protecting the independence of the judiciary. Many international instruments memorialize judicial independence. Both domestic and international supporters need to be familiar with these instruments and need to use them in their efforts support the independence of the judiciary.  Finally, the Panel recognized the need for international organizations to continue to provide support and networking opportunities for individual judges on the front lines of the fight to maintain judicial independence.

The CEELI Institute has worked closely with the UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on Global Judicial Integrity Initiative events since 2018, and we look forward to continuing to collaborate with the UN on this important initiative.